Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame is emerging as the de facto spokesperson for Africa with his clear vision of the continent’s strategic position in the world’s political and economic environment. In a big interview with New African, his views convince that progress lies in working together between African countries, rather than external aids with dictatorial agenda behind.
The following are some of his views, while answering to questions of Omar Ben Yedder.
Kagame says “Humanitarian aid is definitely very important as it addresses the immediate problem. That should always be there because it saves lives ….. What I am more worried about is whether aid, in its present form, is really doing its work. Is it to help develop our countries or is it a mechanism to shape the political landscape of the recipient nations to fit in with the needs of the donors, not our needs?”
“The other important question is just how do recipient countries use the aid? If the aid goes to countries like ours to help us stand on our own feet eventually, it is a good thing. But if it increases dependency, then it cannot be good for us in Africa”, President Kagame adds.
According to him, Aid should also be given in the spirit of cooperation, where we work together to bring about a mutually agreeable outcome. It should not be prescriptive or dictatorial.
No matter Trump’s attention to Africa
“If you want me to behave like you or believe in what you believe in, convince me through dialogue and conversation. But if you have this belief that I have to be like you and you have the right to dictate it to me, then the main outcome is going to be rejection….”.
“Trump’s administration not paying much attention to Africa may be a good thing. It means that maybe those of us who are worried about aid need to step up and start thinking, not so much about what somebody is willing to come and do for them, but rather, what we can do for ourselves that we actually don’t do…. It seems we are waiting for somebody to hand things over to us, like a gift. How can we say, these people need to keep doing things for us when we should be doing them for ourselves?”
So while we are hoping for the best from this administration to keep humanitarian aid going, we also wish for continuation of normal aid, but in a form that allows us to make changes to solve our problems. We would also appreciate less interference – we talk of freedoms but if you insist on managing people’s lives, you are managing their freedoms.
We shouldn’t be depending on which US president comes and what he will do for us. What we should focus on is saying to them: “Guys, we are not trading with each other enough, and holding back billions of dollars that could be spread out far and wide and create more benefit all round.”
This is really what this turmoil is all about – even when you’re talking about trade or globalisation, which by the way has been a good thing in principle, the issue is undermined by people wanting to get things their way and not sharing.
And that brings me to the question of governance. How do we govern? It all boils down to whether it is about fairness, about justice, about accountability, about accepting that it’s not always going to be you having your way on everything and leaving others to fend for themselves.
Working together, we are not where we want to be-Kagame
You are talking of leaders the likes of Abdoulaye Wade, Obasanjo, Mbeki, Meles Zenawi, Bouteflika of Algeria, all of whom were driving matters of the continent in a positive direction.
From the beginning of the AU, we had this group of people who took on this pan-African leadership role.
The leadership has now turned to the AU Commission. But having said that, I still think that the mood in Africa generally, as was reflected during the AU summit, is of wanting things to move in the right direction, to bring the changes that are required to transform the continent politically, economically, socially; to bring the African continent together and give it a voice in global affairs.
The mood is there, the thinking is there but that leadership which you rightly alluded to, may not appear as vocal. There is a realisation that we need to do something. It is not enough to talk about the AU and Africa and being proud of everything but realising very little.
“Aid should be given in a spirit of cooperation, where we work together to bring about a mutually agreeable outcome. It should not be prescriptive or dictatorial.”
It is unacceptable that 98% of the organisation’s programmes are funded by external donors. Through this process leaders are emerging.
Roadblocks will always hold back progress – whether we are big or small we need to act together, there is no doubt. We can’t get to the point we want unless everybody realises that progress lies in working together. If you think you are big enough to stand alone, fine, but you cannot hide behind “working together” when it suits you and then go your own way when it doesn’t. There is no doubt that a few of us [African nations] are holding back the progress that we would otherwise make.
“I think I have been pleasantly surprised that we are where we are after such a short time given what happened in 1994. But I think yet; it is still a long journey, but we are beyond where I expected, given all of the challenges that we have faced”.
This is a summary of the Big interview, by Jean Baptiste Karegeya